Ford Mustang rides again

Among its other traits, the early Ford Mustang was prized by muscle-car buffs for its ability to perform a classic muscle-car feat: the brake torque.The brake torque is what happens when the driver jams down simultaneously on the gas and brake...

Among its other traits, the early Ford Mustang was prized by muscle-car buffs for its ability to perform a classic muscle-car feat: the brake torque.

The brake torque is what happens when the driver jams down simultaneously on the gas and brake pedals, causing the back wheels to squeal furiously and belch clouds of black smoke, while the front wheels grip desperately at the pavement.

If nothing else, the manoeuvre is a guaranteed head-turner.

Ford Motor Company of Canada is hoping the launch program for it new 1994 Mustang will be equally effective at capturing people’s attention.

On Dec. 26 at 9p.m. on The CTV Television Network, Ford will be the sole advertiser of a specially arranged showing of Bullitt, the classic high-speed car-chase flick starring Steve McQueen.

The use of Bullitt as a marketing vehicle for the Mustang is appropriate, considering the film’s protagonist, portrayed by McQueen, spends much of his time racing up and down the streets of San Francisco behind the wheel of a 1967 Mustang Fastback convertible.

Ford is betting Bullitt’s viewership will skew heavily in the direction of car buffs, which is precisely the kind of audience it wants to talk to about the newly designed Mustang.

The first Mustang rolled off the assembly line in 1964.

Designed by a team assembled specifically for the project, the car held sway for nearly 10 years as one of the quintessential North American muscle cars.

But in the early 1970s, reacting to the oil crisis and consumer demand for gas-efficiency over power and speed, Ford abruptly reworked the design, cutting back its size and replacing its powerful eight-cylinder motor with a four-cylinder number.

Although the move might have met Ford’s need to add a fuel-efficient model to its car roster, it was disastrous for the Mustang image, which was all about being beefed up and having power to spare.

But for the 1994 model year, after admittedly mishandling the car for nearly a decade – and, apparently, almost killing it off last year – Ford has decided to relaunch the Mustang with styling elements that recall the car’s roots and a renewed emphasis on power under the hood.

Ron Dodds, national advertising manager at the Oakville, Ont.-based car company, says Ford decided to stick with the model after recent research showed the Mustang name ‘still has an incredibly loyal following.’

Dodds says that when word leaked out Ford might cut Mustang from its lineup, ‘both young and old called the company and said `you can’t get rid of the Mustang.’ ‘

He says the car appeals to buyers in a wide range of demographic groups, adding it has an almost magical appeal that evokes nostalgic, ‘apple pie’ images of ‘life in the 1960s.’

The 1994 Mustang, which goes on sale Dec. 9, sells for a base price of $15,000.

It comes with an eight-cylinder or six-cylinder motor and is available as a convertible, a hard-top or a convertible with a detachable hard-top.

Stylistically, its front end, triple taillights and scooped-out side panels all harken back to earlier, popular incarnations of the model.

While car buffs will debate just how true the new styling is to the original, Ford is convinced the similarities are close enough to justify an ad campaign that plays on the car’s rich brand heritage.

In the u.s., the tagline that will appear in advertising for the new Mustang is: ‘It is what it was and more.’

Bruce Neve, associate media director with Young & Rubicam, Ford’s Canadian ad agency, says Canadian advertising for the car will feature a similar ‘heritage-based’ tag.

But Neve says the ads, which are scheduled to break Dec. 9 in conjunction with the car launch, are still being completed, so the precise wording is up in the air.

In keeping with the heritage strategy, the bulk of the commercial time Ford has bought on Bullitt is to be filled with original 1960s Mustang ads, together with film footage from Ford’s archives.

The archive footage, which was put together by Toronto’s PPL Marketing, shows things such as shiny new Mustangs rolling off assembly lines.

There are also several clips of 1960-era tv news coverage, showing student demonstrations and the like. And for added effect, 1960s music has been laid over top wherever possible.

Dodds says the ads and other footage create such a strong impression on baby boomers such as himself that, when watching it for the first time, ‘I actually had shivers running up and down my spine.’

To round out its commercial time, Ford will run three 30-second spots featuring company President James O’Connor.

The spots will appear at the beginning, middle and end of the two-hour film.

According to Neve, O’Connor will act as the film’s presenter and speak directly to car lovers about the Mustang heritage and the latest design of the car.

Ford’s decision to become sole sponsor of Bullitt represents yet another success for ctv in its two-year-old TOPS (Total Optimization of Premiums and Incentives) program.

Drew Williams, ctv’s director of marketing, says that as part of its deal with Ford, the station will direct a ‘whole lot of promotional weight against turning out an audience.’

ctv almost was not able to bring Bullitt to air for Ford.

Toronto’s Citytv owns the rights to the film, but ctv was able to negotiate a deal to run it on a one-time basis.